Successful ‘Who’s Watching Whom’ conference discusses the fight for justice
By John Smith, PCS trade union rep (the videos of Ricky, Helen, Dave and Chris appear after the report below)
A successful conference was held in Coventry on Saturday entitled ‘Who’s Watching Whom – justice, trade union and democratic rights’. Organised by Coventry TUC and Unite Tom Mann branch, the event drew 115 people through the day.
Many people involved in different unions and campaign groups attended and were able to share their experiences and put forward some concrete points about how this can be fought against across the trade union movement. Some of the unions and campaign groups that also held stalls at the event to raise awareness and solidarity were the Communication Workers Union, Keep Our NHS Public, National Shop Stewards Network, British Pensioners Trade Union Action Association and the campaign against cuts to severely disabled childrens transport.
Ricky Tomlinson (known by millions for his role as Jim Royle in the BBC hit ‘The Royle Family’) was one of the main speakers – describing his victimisation for trade union activism which saw him receive a jail sentence! He gave a very passionate speech which received a standing ovation from the entire room.
Alongside Ricky there was also Dave Smith, author of the book ‘Blacklisted’, who spoke about the blacklisting of trade unionists in the construction industry, and Helen Steel, who spoke about her experience of abuse by an undercover policeman who went so far as to get into a relationship with her before suddenly disappearing – all part of a spying operation targeting political groups and activists.
Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary of the PCS civil servants union spoke about the surveillance of unions by the state and the attempts to sabotage them – and also highlighted the need for action against the public sector pay cap.
There were also examples given of the attempts by the state to also actively work to undermine unions – such as what happened with the CPSA (predecessor of the PCS union) in the 1980s following the election of John Macreadie as general secretary, who was a supporter of the Marxists grouped around the Militant newspaper (forerunner of the Socialist Party).
From the contributions from the speakers and also from people who attended, it was clear that undercover surveillance of unionists and political activists has taken place – contrary to the myth that “it couldn’t happen in Britain”! Indeed, we reported in 2016 the activities of one ‘Carlo Neri’, who the state had placed at tax payers expense in the Socialist Party.
The event was illuminating and inspiring for all who attended. It also helped remind us what we are up against in trying to build fighting, democratic trade unions and ultimately getting rid of capitalism. However the speakers were not pessimistic, on the contrary, all who attended left the conference fired up and with a greater understanding of how the state works and the lengths it will go to. One of the key messages was to ‘keep campaigning’, as the system can be defeated by a mass movement armed with a socialist programme to change society.
We encourage all our readers to check out the videos of the speakers below!